VIEW: The match in Mohali —Naeem Tahir - Saturday, April 02, 2011

It was feared that the reaction to defeat in Pakistan would be intense and ugly scenes of threatening the players and their families, burning of flags and effigies etc might happen. None of these ugly reactions emerged

By the time this article appears, lots of cricket fans will be engaged in thinking about the final match on April 2 in Mumbai. But many will remember the cricket match in Mohali, particularly the Pakistanis. This Saturday, Indian fans will be praying for India and the Sri Lankans for their country. Let us hope, once again, that the game is viewed as a wonderful and exciting game only. It is a game that brings people together through its intense entertainment value.

The real winners in the Mohali match were the people of the two countries who showed grace and enjoyed the contest. No doubt, there is painful regret being felt by the Pakistanis for having lost the match but more surprising is the fact that almost everyone accepted defeat as an outcome that is always there and must be lived with.

The Mohali match proved to be more than just a cricketing contest. It appeared like a semi-final between the teams who were trying to build relations between the two countries. None of these teams lost; it was a tie with the promise to play more. This was the more important result for the people of the two countries. The captains of these two teams and Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Gilani did a good job. Manmohan Singh has a perpetual smile on his face that fits all occasions and never changes. One would like to hope that this time the perpetual smile was real and reflected his actual state of mind and heart.

Relations between the two governments have been mostly tense. There is a section of the Indian public that does not want good relations. Some of these see political advantage in animosity, like the Sangh Parivar politicians. Others play on religious sentiments like the saffron brigade and Hindutva groups. In addition, there is a section of the Indian armed forces that feels its budget and strength have a strong relation with keeping Pakistan posted as an enemy. They also do not subscribe to Nehru’s view of cutting the army’s strength and building friendly relations with their neighbours. There are elements in the Indian army who were hurt when Shastri returned the two hillocks to Pakistan after the Tashkent Accord. They felt betrayed after having laid down many lives. In Pakistan, the extreme right is the stumbling block. In both countries there are expansionist elements. In Pakistan, these are the religious fanatics and in India they are the dreamers desiring the Mahabharata. They need to understand that in all religions, maximum importance is attached to being good human beings. This is the central message of all faiths. Good humans make good nations. They do so within their political geographic limits and beyond.

In Mohali, the message perpetuated was of peace and, therefore, I feel the people of both countries have won. It was feared that the reaction to defeat in Pakistan would be intense and ugly scenes of threatening the players and their families, burning of flags and effigies etc might happen. None of these ugly reactions emerged. Mostly people have shown magnanimity and civilised behaviour. They have appreciated the efforts made by the cricket team and their success in reaching the semi-finals after 12 years.

For most people, a contest with India is the ultimate thrill. Nothing else really matters and they got that thrill. This affinity is the root of their sentiments. People in India and Pakistan want to ‘play’, they want to meet each other, do business, make friends and laugh together. One wishes that Manmohan Singh succeeded in bringing his perpetual smile to all the people in the subcontinent.

Now about the Cricket World Cup semi-final match in Mohali. Granted that disappointment is not obvious, but defeat has hurt the Pakistani fans. Surprisingly, most people were content with the cricket team making it to the semi-final. They also felt happy that they had defeated Australia, the champions of three World Cups and that they packed off the West Indies convincingly. All these achievements revealed the potential of a great team, one that could have made it to the final. I suspect that even Afridi did not believe it. Even Afridi and his management colleagues seemed to have thought that entering the final would be expecting too much. The team could have won this match after the wonderful performance by Wahab Riaz. He took five wickets and forced the Indian team to finish at a low score. After bowling out Sehwag, Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, Wahab had pushed the Indian team against the wall. But several things went wrong at the same time. Tendulkar continued to play, and we dropped his catches four times. No team can hope to win even after dropping one catch of such a player, yet we dropped the winning catch four times! Luck was with Tendulkar and India. Tendulkar survived in the 11th over at his score of 23, despite having been given an out by the umpire, thanks to a review. In the next ball from Saeed Ajmal’s over, he survived the stumping. Then, in the 13th over, Misbah dropped the catch off Afridi’s ball. Tendulkar had only 27 runs on board. The gory saga of dropping Tendulkar’s catches continued; Younas, Umar, Kamran, all dropped Tendulkar’s catches until he reached 85 and was caught off Ajmal’s ball by Afridi. The extra 58 runs added by him sealed the match in India’s favour, although they were restricted to a less than expected score of 260 runs. Pakistan’s openers started well, but mistakes followed one after the other. Hafeez chose a ridiculous shot, Younas and Misbah were reluctant to score, Afridi avoided the power play he is so famous for and so on and so forth. This lack of planning and preparation led to the team losing by only 29 runs. The team lost a match they could have won hands down. The team once again confirmed its tremendous potential. With discipline and planning they can do better. The board needs to think. Let us stop sulking and hope for the best in the future.

The writer is a culture and media management specialist, a researcher, author, director and actor

Source :\04\02\story_2-4-2011_pg3_3

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